Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 30 - A Walk to a Lock and a bus to Gigs

Today the weather was supposed to be partly sunny and in the 60s, so we chose to go to Camden Lock to take a boat cruise along the Regent's Canal.  We rode the tube and stepped out into a slightly different world.

Camden Town High Street
The town is full of tattoo parlors, piercing studios and leather adorned with chains.  The crowd was young and experimental, enjoying both the wares and the window shopping.  In some ways it felt like we were in Amsterdam since the air was redolent with substances that are not at all legal in the UK.

Dark Angel in Camden Town
A lot of the shops display large 3D icons of their wares above their store (since a picture is worth a thousand words in any language).  The stores and markets in Camden are a major tourist attraction at weekends, selling goods of all types including fashion, lifestyle, books, food, junk/antiques and more bizarre items; they and the surrounding shops are popular with young people, in particular those searching for "alternative" clothing.

Walker's Quay
After we wandered and gawked for a bit, we headed over to Walker's Quay, which runs the canal boat tours, and were surprised to discover it was located in a cafe.  The woman selling tickets to the boats sat at a small corner table set near the front window of the restaurant.  Not exactly what we were expecting, but it worked.  However, we were a little nervous as we walked down the stairs, tickets in hand toward a boat that had seen better days.  Considering how much Walker's depends on tourists for their trade, you'd think they'd spruce the boat and its walk up a bit, but who am I to complain?
Jenny Wren
Avoiding the holes in the dock, we gingerly made it down to our boat, which photographs a lot better than it looks close up, and stepped down to the padded wooden chairs that weren't fixed to the boat in any manner.  We sat up next to the bow (front) hoping we could get better pictures that way.

The tour takes approximately 90 minutes round trip.  Commencing at Walker’s Quay, your boat rises 2.5 meters in the lock at Camden before sailing through London Zoo with the giraffes on one side and the Snowdon Aviary on the other side, then through Regent's Park, the Maida Hill Tunnel (170 yards long) then around Robert Browning’s Island at Little Venice, before returning back to Walker’s Quay.

Jenny Wren on its journey
Former Toll Booth on Regent's Canal
Pirate's Castle
Chinese Floating Restaurant
A well to do home
Another home
Third home on the trip
The Regent's Canal runs through the north end of Camden Town. On the canal-boat trips it's possible to note how many of the handrails by the bridges show deep marks worn by the towropes by which horses pulled canal barges until the 1950s, and it is still possible to see ramps on the canal bank designed to assist horses which fell in the canal after being startled by the noise of a train.

Work on the canal began on 14 October 1812. The first section from Paddington to Camden Town, opened in 1816 and included a 251-metre (274 yd) long tunnel under Maida Hill east of an area now known as 'Little Venice', and a much shorter tunnel, just 48 metres (52 yd) long, under Lisson Grove. The Camden to Limehouse section, including the 886-metre (969 yd) long Islington tunnel and the Regent's Canal Dock (used to transfer cargo from seafaring vessels to canal barges – today known as Limehouse Basin), opened four years later on 1 August 1820.

The City Road Basin, the nearest to the City of London, soon eclipsed the Paddington Basin in the amount of goods carried, principally coal and building materials. These were goods that were being shipped locally, in contrast to the canal's original purpose of transshipping imports to the Midlands. The opening of the London and Birmingham Railway in 1838 actually increased the tonnage of coal carried by the canal. However, by the early twentieth century, with the Midland trade lost to the railways, and more deliveries made by road, the canal fell into a long decline.

The iconic bridge in Camden
Camden Lock is a regularly-used traditional manually-operated double canal lock operating between widely separated levels. A large complex of weekend street markets operate around the Lock. The towpath is a pedestrian and cycle route which runs continuously from Little Venice through Camden Lock to the Islington Tunnel.

After our boat trip we caught a bus and headed toward Googe Street where we'd been told  one of the best fish and chips restaurants resided on Tottenham Street.  Gigs.

They were able to seat us right away and we told them they'd come highly recommended to us.  We did order appetizers (hubby had Scampi and I had Calamari) and the fish and chips.  Again hubby requested the cod and I wanted haddock.

My Fish and Chips dinner
Luckily the restaurant lived up to its hype.  The fish was flaky and flavorful and we were given so many chips (fries) that neither of us could finish what we were served.  After dinner we took the tube back to Covent Garden and we're now settled in the flat for the evening.  We'll see what mischief we can get in tomorrow.


  1. It sounds like you had a fun day, in spite of the dubious boat ride. I love your pictures. When I go on vacation, I never take enough pictures.

  2. We always have fun, especially when our plans find us doing dubious things in dubious places (but not too dubious, of course).